By Nick Said
TOYOTACITY, Japan (Reuters) – South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus says the conditions in Japan are curtailing the attacking instincts of sides and leading to upsets in the pool stages, but believes things will change by the time the Rugby World Cup knockout rounds begin.
The Springboks scored nine tries in their 57-3 Pool B victory over minnows Namibia at the City of Toyota Stadium on Saturday. But they produced numerous errors with the ball in hand, as Erasmus confirms it became “almost impossible” to handle the ball the longer the game went on.
The high humidity in Japan at this time of year makes the ball slippery and Erasmus believes this has an effect on the game-plan of the teams.
“It’s difficult to explain to people how tough it is to handle (the ball) in these conditions,” he told reporters.
“You can ask the players – the chat before was, ‘Listen, the first 20 minutes, the ball is going to stick, and after that, it is going to be almost impossible to handle’.
“It’s not just the ball that is wet, it’s your arms, your jersey. At halftime the guys change their jersey but within five minutes it’s soaking and slippery again.
“In the line-out and even the maul, where you are passing the ball back backwards … it is difficult to adapt and I don’t think you will adapt, you have to wait for it to go away. So it is tough for everybody.”
Erasmus says the conditions are a great leveler, but expects things to change in the next few weeks as humidity levels drop.
“After the pool games, according to some of the players that have played here before, and the coaches who have been here, there is a sudden change, not so much in the temperature but the humidity and then handling the ball gets a little bit easier.
“I said a couple of weeks ago that there might be one or two upsets in the pool stages, but when we get to the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, it wouldn’t be as much of a factor.”
Erasmus believes Japan’s ability to adapt to the conditions played a big role in their stunning 19-12 victory over Ireland on Saturday that blew Pool A wide open.
“I think the classic example of this was the Ireland-Japan game. Just the way Japan are used to the conditions and the way they handled the ball. It definitely changes your approach.”
The win for the home nation opens up the strong possibility of a quarter-final with the Boks, which Erasmus describes as a “scary option”.
“If they manage to beat Scotland, they can be on top of the pool, and if we manage to beat Italy, then that’s a realistic option. And also a scary option,” he said.
(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Dan Grebler)